New Security Protocols to Cause Processing Delays at INS
June 6, 2002

Whether you are applying to extend your nonimmigrant tourist status or to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, the time U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service will take to process your case will no doubt take longer as a result new security measures now being put into place. The Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) is a U.S. government database and program originally implemented less than a year ago in order to scrutinize prospective applicants for U.S. permanent residence or immigrant visas. However, with increased national security concerns arising after September 11, IBIS security checks will be performed on virtually all immigration related filings, including applications for U.S. citizenship, Employment Authorization Documents, extension of tourist (B-1/B-1), student (F-1 or M-1) and work visa (H-1B) statuses.

INS officials have made it clear that these new processing delays are only temporary, and as new computer equipment and technologies are added and adapted for heightened security purposes, processing will become more efficient

Although INS has not gone on record stating exactly how long a delay applicants can expect, my own experience with my office’s clientele has been that at least 60 to 120 days can be tacked on to usual, pre-IBIS check processing times.

President Proposes Renewed Effort at Tracking Certain Nonimmigrant Visa Holders

In an effort to address some of the U.S. security and law enforcement shortcomings that were at play in the September 11 murders and assault on the U.S, bold new steps are being proposed to track individuals entering the U.S. on a variety of nonimmigrant visas, particularly visitors, students and temporary workers from Middle Eastern countries.

Interestingly, however, is that most people would think laws and systems are already in place to track all nonimmigrant visa holders entering the U.S. The answer however, is yes to the law part, and no to the system part. That means, that up to this point, practically any foreign national who enters the U.S. as a tourist, student or temporary worker could easily overstay his visa and evade detection, and without much threat of being placed in deportation proceedings. Again, that doesn’t mean laws are not on the books – since current laws and regulations actually do place limitations on visitors, tourists, students, and temporary workers regarding the length and terms of their stay in the U.S. and require such nonimmigrants to inform the INS of their whereabouts. It is just that making resources available to enforce our immigration laws has not been our priority- that is until September 11 happened and it was discovered that many of the hijackers had entered the U.S. legally, but had violated their immigration status in one way or another.

The most recent proposal by the Bush administration is to profile certain visitors, students and workers coming to the U.S. from mainly Middle Eastern countries seen as hotbeds for terrorism. Such foreign nationals will be fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival, and systems will be put in place to require them to report to the INS on a regular basis and provide information regarding their whereabouts and activities in the U.S.

To further legitimize their vision, the Bush administration also noted that these new security initiatives are not unlike systems already in place in most western European countries.

The national debate regarding U.S. security, immigration law, and civil liberties will assuredly carry on and important developments will continue to be featured in this column.

Copyright © 2002-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois